A simple and quick answer to this is no it is not normally possible to shorten, it’s length is in many ways defined by your prospects buying cycle. Lets rephrase the question “What can you do to speed up the passage of a prospect through the pipeline?” Specifically lets consider what you can be done to accelerate progression through the pipeline, reduce leakage and optimize a prospects path through to sale.
You can hasten the pace of the sales cycle by optimizing your skills, shortening response times, and solving objections along the way. By focusing on these factors at each stage of your pipeline individually you benefit by;
– Increasing revenue by improving the quality of opportunities in your sales pipeline.
– Improve the return on investment of sales and marketing efforts
– Maximize the probability of a sales outcome
The common pipeline stages for most B2B to companies span the the responsibility of marketing and sales. These obviously vary between markets, companies and to a certain degree different products, but commonly consist of the following:
Awareness – At some point, the prospect or customer needs to become aware of the product or that they have a problem and require a solution.
Raw Leads – After becoming aware and showing a basic level of interest this would be classed as a raw lead. Prospects at this stage will be motivated to find out more, solve a problem, or educate themselves further.
Inquiries / Leads – This would be the stage when the prospect begins to interact with you. This may be through the website, downloading or interacting with content, an email or an old fashioned phone call.
Sales Accepted Leads – Many define this by the term BANT, standing for Budget, Authority, Need and Timeline. If this can be identified then it is normally safe to say the lead is ready for sales to attempt conversion.
Opportunities – In some situations a Sales accepted Lead may convert quickly but for more complex B2B pipelines, the prospect normally becomes an opportunity where price, delivery, quantities, contracts and sign off need attention.
By definition, all of these steps should occur in every sale. In many cases, the order of events might change and some of the steps might be accomplished in prior transactions or by a customer’s/prospect’s association with previous customers, but none of these steps are passed over, the pipeline is never actually shortened.
By recognizing, preparing for, and dealing with future obstacles or potential roadblocks within your prospects buying process before they become objections has obvious benefits. The real question is how can this be best achieved? Here are 4 steps that help significantly:
Create a Burning Platform
Your marketing and positioning must address 3 important questions;
Why Buy Anything? Why Buy from me? Why Buy Now?
If you have customers you will have achieved this to some degree so look back at your existing customer behaviour and how they became customers. Consider what were their needs, what was their pain, what problem were they trying to solve, what was the buyers job function, what benefits did they see in the product.
This will help you shape the value proposition for use in the awareness and raw lead stages. By fine tuning and communicating this better with prospects they will progress faster along your pipeline.
Get Sales and Marketing working together
Sales and marketing must agree a definition of a sales ready lead, so leads are not passed too early and rejected.
When the time comes for the prospect to talk to sales, the rep must “add” value or solve their business problems rather than simply communicating the product features.
Many companies employ a consultative sales approach – where marketing will continue to support and nurture the lead whilst the sales person works on solving specific customer’s needs.
Proactively manage leads
Many companies “lose” leads when trying to operate two separate silo’s and give up synchronizing them which makes effective measurement, reporting and improvements impossible.
All leads must be captured, this process should not be left in the hope that sales people will do this – they won’t. Feed sales the leads, have a mechanism for feedback and to revisit prospects but most important have the tools to understand where the bottlenecks in your pipeline are forming.
The purpose of qualifying sales opportunities is to determine the quality or “close-ability” of each deal. Qualification enables you to better prioritize your efforts, craft sales strategy, more accurately forecast revenue, and properly allocate resources. Once you know which opportunities can be closed and which ones you can most likely win. You can invest your time and effort structuring and closing those deals to maximize your sales results
With 70% of inquiries eventually buying, you must make sure it is from you.